UT Launches Nation’s First Fully Automated E-bike Sharing System

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KNOXVILLE—The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is home to the nation’s first automated electric bicycle (e-bike) sharing system. The pilot program is the subject of a research study by civil and engineering assistant professor Chris Cherry and Stacy Worley and David Smith from biosystems engineering. If successful, it may be adopted into a full-scale program by the university.

e-bike Charging Station

E-bike charging station at Presidential Court

The system will introduce two bike sharing stations with ten bikes each—seven e-bikes and three bicycles. The first station is on Presidential Court. A second station is slated for installation on the Agriculture Campus.

The media are invited to view and test the e-bikes from 10:00-11:00 a.m. Wednesday, September 7 at Presidential Court. Interviews will be available.

“We are pleased to add the e-biking share program as we work to become a more pedestrian and bike friendly campus,” said Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration. “This effort also fits in well with our campus’ commitment to sustainability and energy savings. It is yet another way UT is blazing a new trail in our long term climate commitment and energy savings and efficiency goals.”

An electric bicycle is a bicycle with an attached motor which activates when pedaling gets more difficult for the rider. The sharing station consists of an integrated bike rack with a battery-charging kiosk which distributes batteries to those who check out e-bikes. The system is fully automated. Users simply swipe their university ID cards to check out and return bikes to the station when finished. The pilot test is free to subscribers within the UT community. Currently, the project is recruiting 200 volunteers for two-month cycles for the academic year.

The e-bike is heralded as an environmentally-friendly alternative to driving. Cherry notes they could be a part of a solution to three related problems: environmental degradation that impacts public health, quality of life and economic security; over-reliance on insecure energy; and a public health crisis of obesity related to inactivity.

“Electric bike sharing has a chance to introduce much more people to mild active transport,” said Cherry. “Nobody wants to work too hard to get around campus but would still like to get some exercise in their daily activities. This system will provide that, improving the users’ health and also reducing emissions.”

The goal of Cherry’s study is to test the operational and economic feasibility of introducing electric bikes in a shared bike system and also test how users respond to them.

“We want to test the technology, operations, environmental impacts, travel demand impacts on physical activity, and economics of developing such a system,” said Cherry. “With this being the first fully automated electric bike sharing system in the country and one of the first in the world, we hope to prove or disprove many of the assumptions that are attached to such a system.”

Cherry hopes the program is attractive to both bike and non-bike users and to leverage his research into developing a full-scale program that can be adopted by the university as part of its Make Orange Green environmental initiative.

“This is a very car-oriented campus, and UT is committed to providing high-quality alternative transportation modes to get to and from campus and to get around campus,” he said. “This is a research project first but could provide a highly sustainable alternative model should the university adopt it.”

The bike sharing program is funded by the University of Tennessee Student Sustainability Initiative, Southeastern Transportation Center, and Tennessee Department of Transportation, with support from Currie Technologies, Fountain City Pedaler and UT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the Biosystems Engineering, and Soil Sciences Department. For more information, visit www.cycleushare.com.

For more information on UT Knoxville’s sustainability efforts, visit the Make Orange Green website at http://environment.utk.edu.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460, wholmes7@utk.edu)

Chris Cherry (865-974-7710, cherry@utk.edu)

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